Hamilton’s work reads like a theological synthesis of the existentialism of Albert Camus and the developmental psychology of Lawrence Kohlberg. He argued that God has graciously freed us from the restraining authority of a transcendent judge; we no longer need to live in fear and servility to an alien power that rewards and punishes. This freedom from judgment opens up the possibility of a freedom for human beings to cultivate moral autonomy. Secularism and the death of God are providential. We are now unmistakably aware that we alone are responsible for the character of our own lives and the well-being of others.
Although he has had one of the most successful careers of any American writers, Updike has always had his detractors and enjoyed his fair share of controversy. He has feuded publicly with the famously touchy essayist and novelist Gore Vidal, as well as with the novelist John Gardner, who described Updike’s work as “bourgeois-pornographic” fiction that glorifies adultery. Similar criticism has often been aimed at Updike’s more sexually explicit work, particularly Couples , and even the early story “A&P,” in which Updike’s interest in the dynamics of sexual attraction is clear. More recently, Updike’s negative review of a novel by Tom Wolfe drew a withering reply from Wolfe, and the subsequent war of words, waged in the pages and letters columns of several magazines, was gleefully followed by the literary world. Still producing novels, stories, and criticism regularly, Updike remains one of the most visible figures in American letters, a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize, and the rare writer who can combine literary merit with popular success.